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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New Zealand: Tasers fired in mental health cases

December 16, 2010
Victoria Robinson, Stuff

A new study shows that police tasers are more than twice as likely to be used at mental health emergencies than criminal arrests.

The study was conducted by Anthony O'Brien, senior lecturer in nursing at the University of Auckland.

O'Brien said he was shocked to find that tasers had been used by police in laser pointing mode at mental health facilities.

The laser pointing mode is one step away from discharging the taser.

"I was shocked to find that tasers have been used at mental health inpatient units.

"I would be extremely alarmed if we were moving the way of the United States where hospital staff have been given tasers. That is completely contrary to New Zealand policy which is aimed at improving in-patient services," O'Brien says.

The study also found Maori and Pacific people are far more likely to be tasered than Europeans.

The study was published recently in the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry.

A spokesman for the New Zealand police says officers at an incident decide whether or not to use their tasers based on the level of threat to themselves and those around them.

"The officer wouldn't know whether someone is a mental health patient or not unless there is an indication that there are issues," he says.

"As far as mental health goes, we're aware of all the issues and we have been in constant contact and discussions with mental health authorities."

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